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Is HDMI Better Than DVI?

Debating whether to buy an HDMI or a DVI cable is not one of those things that will keep you awake all night. But it’s worth knowing how different the two are so that you can pick the best cable for your needs.

It can be quite confusing for most people to choose because the two are essentially the same. Perhaps the biggest difference is that one carries an audio signal while the other doesn’t.

However, this difference is most apparent to those who haven’t used the two side by side. There are more differences, which we are about to explore in this article.

Want to find out? Read on.

What is HDMI?

HDMI cables in orange and blue color

High Definition Multimedia Interface or HDMI is the most popular interface for transferring high-definition audio and video signals. It is so frequently used that it has become the standard connection on Blu-ray players, gaming consoles, DVD players, HDTVs, and many other newer digital devices.

HDMI cables and ports are pretty easy to use and connect. If you’ve used a USB cable before, then, HDMI is not rocket science.

HDMI supports up to 1920×1200 high definition video in addition to 8 channel audio. This means you only need a single cable to stream your videos and audio.

An additional feature that makes HDMI stand out from among the other cables is the HDCP encryption protocol. This allows you to watch all HD content with no restrictions or limitations.

There are five different HDMI connectors- A, B, C, D, E.

  1. Type A is HDMI 1.0. It has 19 pins, is compatible with single-link DVI-D, and is often used in all HDTV, SDTV, and EDTV models.
  2. Type B is also HDMI 1.0. It has 29 pins and is compatible with dual-link DVI-D. It is often used in extremely high-resolution displays like the WQUXGA.
  3. Type C is HDMI 1.3. It’s a mini connector often used by portable devices. It is compatible with the Type A connector but when using a special cable. This connection uses 19 pins. 
  4. Type D is HDMI 1.4. Similar to Type C, the connection uses 19 pins and is used by portable devices. It is also compatible with Type A and is capable of very high resolutions.
  5. Type E is HDMI 1.4. It is used exclusively in automobiles.

What is DVI?

DVI-A cable

DVI is often found on desktops and LCD monitors. The connection has 24 pins and supports both digital and analog video signals.

With a DVI, you can stream up to 1920×1200 HD video and up to 2560×1600 pixels with a dual-link connector.

DVI does not support HDCP content, so you may not be able to watch some HD content or enjoy playback on HD content. With a converter, however, you can find a way around this. This is the beauty of the DVI- it’s highly compatible.

DVI is both backward and forward compatible, although you may experience some slight signal loss.

DVI comes with three types of connections:

  1. DVI-D which is the digital connector and is by far the most popular. You will often see it used to connect LCD monitors to DVI graphics cards. DVD-D can be single-link or dual-link. Dual-link has a higher performance than single-link and delivers data way faster.
  2. DVI-A which is the analog connector and is often used to connect CRT monitors and other analog displays. Compared to a standard VGA, it delivers higher-quality signals.
  3. DVI-I which is an integrated connector with 29 pins. It can carry both analog and digital signals when needed. That is, it can act as a DVI-D or the DVI-A anytime. DVI-I comes as a single-link or dual-link.

HDMI Vs. DVI: Comparison

DVI cables and HDMI cables

Let’s take a closer look at the two to find out what differences exist between them that can help you decide which connection is better for your needs.

How they work

White DVI cable and Black HDMI cable

As we mentioned earlier, DVI and HDMI are more alike in their functionality. They both transmit signals from a source device to the destination: a display device like a monitor, projector, or TV. The only difference is the types of signals being transmitted.

HDMI transmits only digital signals and carries audio and video, whereas DVI only carries video signals that can either be digital or analog (using a specific DVI connector).

With an adapter/converter, it is possible to use a DVI cable in an HDMI port and, likewise, use an HDMI port to connect a DVI cable. Converters such as this HDMI to DVI adapter cable  and this DVI to HDMI adapter from BENFEI  have proven worthy to us time and again.


Black DVI cable and black HDMI cable

The biggest concern for every user should be compatibility. You are not in the business of buying fancy monitors that you have no means of connecting. If anything, you should have multiple ways of connectivity.

Aside from its popularity, HDMI seems to be by far the most compatible of the two. You will find HDMI ports on nearly every modern PC, monitor, gaming console, TV set, laptop – name them.

Refresh rate and quality

White DVI cables and orange HDMI cables

Refresh rate is the number of frames put out per second by a monitor or TV. Initially, DVI was considered better due to the high refresh rate it could support. Over the years, though, HDMI has worked its way up and has now caught up with DVI.

They both can now offer up to 144 frames per second at 1080p. This offers the user an effortlessly smooth PC experience. 

Most professionals who use the monitors with higher rates have reported less strain and headaches that often come due to long hours of staring at the monitor.

Even though they both support higher refresh rates, HDMI is considered better than its counterpart because it supports numerous other advanced technologies like High Dynamic Range (HDR).


A shopping card and price tag

It’s hard to tell which is cheaper or expensive. This is because both HDMI and DVI cables vary greatly in pricing across manufacturers and resellers. 

In most instances, the prices do not accurately reflect the quality. This is why we feel the price is never really a key determinant, especially with HDMI and DVI. That is not to say ignore the cost aspect. We like to say, pick a budget and work around it.

In some of our recent posts, we’ve talked in depth about expensive cables and whether or not they are worth it. You can read one here.

Over time, we’ve discovered that, cheap or expensive, the cables will transmit the same level of signal and, consequently, the same quality image. The only difference is that an expensive cable may be more long-lasting if made of good-quality material.

For instance, an HDMI or DVI cable made of gold-plated connectors is resistant to damage and corrosion and may be more durable than a silver-plated cable.

Otherwise, it’s perfectly acceptable to buy the cheapest HDMI or cheapest DVI cable you can lay your hands on.

Audio Channels

A significant difference between the HDMI and DVI is that HDMI transmits audio signals via the 32 audio channels, whereas DVI only transmits video signals. 

Therefore, if you choose a DVI, you will need to use an additional audio cable like a coaxial or optical cable to transmit sound to or from your monitor.


White DVI cable and Yellow HDMI cable

To lessen the confusion, it’s good to tell the two apart instantly from their appearance. Thankfully, they have contrasting footprints, unlike many other cables that are often deceptively alike.

The DVI has a rectangular plug and is surprisingly larger than HDMI. Perhaps because of the arrangement of the pins and how they are flanked on both sides. The 24 pins are arranged in a matrix of three rows to the left and an additional 4 to the right.

On the other end of the spectrum, HDMI is smaller in size and has a small rectangular plug. It consists of 19 pins, all grouped in the middle, leaving some gap on either side.

In part, their difference in sizes is the securing screws found in DVI, despite having almost the same number of pins. They take up a lot of space.

Both DVI and HDMI have mini and macro versions-the Mini-HDMI, Macro-HDMI, and the Mini-DVI and Macro-DVI. These versions, however, are still pretty uncommon, with the latter being found only in Apple computers.

Capabilities and Usage

White DVI cables and black HDMI cables

The older technology, DVI, can support up to 1920×1200 HD video or up to 2560×1600 but only when you use a dual-link DVI connector. A standard HDMI can stream up to 1920×1200 HD video and 8 channel audio. It can stream both the video and audio simultaneously.

While they both have great resolution capabilities, their usage tends to vary because of some limitations.

For instance, DVI does not support HDCP encryption, and therefore you can not enjoy all HD content. 

This makes DVI not the best option for HDTVs, Blu-Ray players, gaming consoles, and other video devices. Especially because it does not support audio. It is, however, the most ideal for computers and LCD monitors. And given that it supports both analog and digital signals, you have the flexibility to connect your computer that has a DVI output to a monitor with a VGA input.

Summary Table

SignalsDigital & analog video only

29 pins

Digital video and audio signal, 19 or 29 pins.
CompatibilityCompatible with HDMI and VGA.Compatible with both DVI and VGA
Audio signalNone. Requires separate audio cable.Transmits audio
Connectors(DVI-A: Analog only, DVI-D: Digital only & DVI-I: Digital and Analog)Type A, B, C, D, E
AppearanceBigger connectorSmaller connector
Refresh rate and qualityGreatExcellent

Does HDMI Have Better Quality than DVI?

Not really. HDMI and DVI offer the same image quality because they both use the same encoding scheme for the video signals. Only that HDMI benefits from HDR technology. This allows it to have a greater range of detail when exposed to different light qualities.

Is DVI or HDMI Better for Gaming?

Boy is playing multiple games on PC

Between HDMI and DVI, HDMI is the best for gaming. For a couple of reasons: it offers higher bandwidth for higher resolutions, has a high refresh rate per frame, and is more compatible with gaming consoles. Also, you only need a single cable to play and listen to your game.

And with the help of an HDMI splitter, you can create multiple displays of your gaming experience.

DVI is considered the bare minimum for gaming. You can only enjoy games at 1080p or 1440p resolution. And even that, you must have a dual-link connection.


Black DVI cables and black HDMI cables

HDMI and DVI are both great video interfaces. They use the same encoding scheme for videos and therefore put out similar image quality. The only difference is that HDMI also transmits audio signals, making it more preferable, especially for home entertainment use. Besides, it has higher compatibility than DVI and a higher refresh rate.

As you can tell by now, both connections have their place. A DVI is most ideal for PCs and monitors while an HDMI is most ideal for gaming and streaming HD content. We hope this has helped you solve the DVI-HDMI mystery once and for all.

Last update on 2022-08-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API.

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